In a legal case, there is a process called discovery. The lawyers for both the client and the defendant must turn over all of the information they have about their case to opposing counsel. It makes it really easy to see the other person’s case. It’s strengths and its weaknesses are exposed completely.
Even without a formal discovery process, you know your competitor’s every weakness. You know where you are stronger, where they are weaker, and you know how you beat them when and where you do. You don’t have to fear your competitor, but you must respect them, lest you underestimate them.
If you really want to improve your ability to compete and win, you’ll study how your competitor views you. You’ll write your competitor’s case against your product, service, and solutions.
Competing on Strengths
We spend a lot of time and energy studying our competitor’s weaknesses. That energy is sometimes better directed at studying our own competitive disadvantages.
If you were your competitor, what would you say were your weaknesses?
In what areas is your ability to create value for your dream client limited?
If you were your competitor, how would you lay out a logical argument against choosing you, your product, your service, or your solution?
This isn’t an exercise designed to make squirm, though it probably will. It’s designed to make you think about how you sell. It is difficult to compete where your competitor is strong and you are weak. It’s far easier to compete where you are strong and where they are weak.
But, by looking at your offering from your competitor’s viewpoint, you can start to decide how to mitigate your weaknesses.
There is a difference between being weaker in an area and competing where you don’t really compete. If the area where you are weak and your competitor is strong is the fundamental criteria being used to decide, you shouldn’t be competing, you probably should be disqualifying.
The ability to mitigate your weaknesses requires that you lay out a logical case as to why your strengths far outweigh your weaknesses. You can be weaker in some areas and still create far more value than your competitors overall.
Is there a reason that you are weaker in a certain area? Does focusing less in this area allow you to focus your time, your efforts, and your energy in an area that is more important to your clients?
Is the value you can create in this area so limited that even your best effort there doesn’t really produce or contribute much to the results your clients need?
Is a weak area really something that isn’t primary or fundamental to generating results?
Do you generate the same result as your competitors by doing something completely different?
If you were your competitor, you would frame your offering to highlight your strengths and to expose your weaknesses. Knowing what your competitors are likely to expose as weaknesses means you can address them thoughtfully and honestly. It means you can be prepared to address them and mitigate the case against you.
Not a Call for Cynicism or Pulled Punches
If you sell, you need to be honest and know that you, your products, your services, and your solutions have weaknesses.
This shouldn’t make you cynical. It should make you thoughtful about how you help your clients, and it should make it easier to compete where you can win. It should make it easier for you to disqualify yourself when your weak areas make it impossible for you to help a client.
If the weak areas cause you to lose, instead of being cynical and complaining (or pulling your punches), you should sell the changes that need be made within your own organization. There is no one closer to customers than the sales force, and your feedback can and should shape the company’s future.
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